Globe Briefs December 24

Globe Briefs December 24

UN to recognize Yom Kippur as official holiday

The United Nations will for the first time recognize Yom Kippur as an official holiday.

Starting in 2016, no official meetings will take place on the Jewish day of atonement at the international body’s New York headquarters, and Jewish employees there will be able to miss work without using vacation hours, the Times of Israel has reported.

Other religious holidays that enjoy the same status are Christmas, Good Friday, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

In a statement issued Dec. 18, B’nai B’rith International, which in a 2014 op-ed for The New York Times pushed for the international body to recognize Yom Kippur, said it “welcomes” the news. In 2014, ambassadors from 32 countries signed a letter in support of recognizing Yom Kippur.

“This is a modest, common-sense step toward fairness for personnel at the United Nations and respect for Judaism as a major world religion,” the B’nai B’rith statement said. “It should be emulated at the U.N.’s offices across the world and built upon across an international system in which politics often supplant mutual respect and equality.”

Israeli mom appeals rabbinate’s decision not to recognize her as Jewish

An Israeli mother, who was declared to be not Jewish by a rabbinical court, said in an appeal that the judges failed to satisfactorily explain their unusual decision. Sarit Azoulay’s appeal, which she filed this month with the High Rabbinical Court, concerns a 2012 ruling by the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court that nullified her mother’s 1983 conversion to Judaism, Ha’aretz reported last week.

As Orthodox rabbinical recognition of a person’s Judaism is determined by the mother’s religion, the court concluded that Azoulay is not Jewish. But in her appeal, Azoulay’s lawyers noted that the 2012 panel of three judges provided no explanation. She also argued that, as she herself was born after her mother’s conversion and was raised Jewish, recognition of her own Jewish identity cannot be subject to that of her mother.

In Israel, rabbinical courts function as family courts, and the rulings of their judges, or dayanim, are legally binding.

Following the appeal, Yaakov Eliezerov, a member of the 2012 panel, defended its ruling in a letter to the High Rabbinical Court by noting that the mother had sent her daughter to a nonreligious state school. But Azoulay argued this reasoning is unsatisfactory, as her mother sent her to that school years after her conversion, which was conducted by Orthodox rabbis. Most Israeli Jews attend nonreligious public schools.

Eliezerov also wrote that the nullification owed to “other doubts as to whether the mother deceived the conversion court.” He did not elaborate.

Azoulay and her mother were summoned to appear before the Jerusalem rabbinical court after Azoulay registered with the rabbinate to marry her then fiance, whose mother is also a convert to Judaism, Ha’aretz reported. But the three-judge panel questioned Azoulay’s mother, who is divorced from Azoulay’s Jewish father, on her level of observance and decided to void her conversion.

Barred from being married by the rabbinate, Azoulay and her fiance turned to an Orthodox rabbi affiliated with Tzohar, a group that caters to Jews encountering issues with rabbinical courts. They married in an Orthodox ceremony recognized by the Israeli interior ministry.

Azoulay told Ha’aretz she appealed in order to ensure her own daughter will be recognized as Jewish.

Judge takes over stalled investigation into death of AMIA prosecutor

An Argentine judge has taken over the investigation into the unresolved death of AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

Judge Fabiana Palmaghini on Dec. 17 removed the case from the hands of prosecutor Viviana Fein, who had put the investigation on hold after Nisman’s mother and former wife requested that the case be sent to a federal court to be investigated as an assassination.

Palmaghini will resolve the dispute between Nisman’s relatives, who believe Nisman was murdered, and the prosecutor, who was also investigating the possibility that the death was a suicide.

The judge has suspended a January month-long court recess and requested more than 40 new steps in the investigation, including the questioning of former Intelligence Secretariat Chief Operations Office Antonio “Jaime” Stiusso, who worked closely with Nisman and who is believed to be in the United States, and Israeli-Argentinean journalist Damian Pachter, who first reported Nisman’s death and has fled to Israel following threats to his safety.

The judge also requested an examination of all the computers used by Nisman and new analyses of the late prosecutor’s apartment, where he was found dead.

Although Palmaghini will lead the investigation, Fein will remain as prosecutor and can ask the judge to take other steps.

Nisman was found dead in his apartment on Jan. 18 with a gunshot wound to the head. Fein has not yet released a final ruling on the cause of death.

“I cannot determine for the moment whether it was a suicide or a homicide,” she said earlier this year, when she convened the authors of the independent forensic report to examine their evidence.

In July, a U.S. forensic pathologist said he believes that Nisman likely was murdered.

Nisman’s body was found hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

Some analysts believe the shift is related to the change of power in Argentinean government. Mauricio Macri, who assumed the presidency of Argentina earlier this month, voided the agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the bombing in his first week in office. Macri said during the election campaign that the investigations into Nisman’s death and the AMIA bombing must be advanced to find the truth.